INTERVIEW: Jim’s Mowing founder reveals ‘pathetic’ failures
THE man behind the Jim’s Group franchises Jim Penman has more than 4000 franchisees in more than 50 different divisions.
But he wasn’t always the face of such a strong and successful Australian brand.
In this chat, Jim talks about the hard road he has embarked on and why he thinks he has been “pathetic” at a lot of things during his career.
Matt Collins: Do you enjoy a good coffee Jim?
Jim Penman: No, absolutely not. I loathe and detest the stuff.
MC: Why’s that?
JP: I don’t like the taste of it. When I was in university I tried it but I could never get the taste for it. It tastes vile. I can’t tell you why.
MC: Let me take you back to school days. Was it always the plan to get into business?
JP: No way. From the time I was 14 I wanted to learn how society worked and why civilisations rise and fall. I read all kinds of books about the decline of the Roman Empire. I was also interested in the biology behind human beings. That was my fascination and what I always intended to do.
MC: So, at that age you saw yourself becoming an academic and getting into university lecturing or something like that?
JP: Yes. Doing research was what my aim was. I read massively, I was a solitary, introverted kid. Very socially awkward, I had very few friends. I just always had my nose in a book.
MC: Would those closest to you say you still are that awkward, introverted person?
JP: Possibly. You get a bit of a veneer with time, but I am still proudly introverted. I can go and spend a day-and-a-half by myself and be very happy.
MC: Jim, you went from academia to mowing lawns. How did that come about?
JP: I’ve been gardening since I was eight years old, so I have been doing it for nearly 60 years now. I had a job with my neighbour raking their driveway and I used to earn two shillings back in those days.
MC: What other work have you done?
JP: I worked on a farm in Western Australia but it was a little bit isolated, even for me. I sold encyclopedias door-to-door.
MC: You sold encyclopedias door-to-door? How was that?
JP: I was very bad at it.
MC: What is the key to a good door-to-door salesman?
JP: You have to have an incredibly tough exterior and the ability to take rejection. Two weeks of knocking on doors and being told no about 2000 times was more than I could cope with.
MC: Did you sell any sets of encyclopedias?
JP: Not one. I was pathetic.
MC: That gives us all hope, Jim.
JP: Well, I think if you look at my career, Matt, you will see someone who is pretty pathetic at a lot of things. I have failed a lot more than I have succeeded. I just happen to have done a few things that have worked out all right.
MC: Is there any truth to the story that you don’t look after your own yard and it’s a bit unkept?
JP: I’ve got a five-acre lot which is nice because I like space and trees and stuff. But I have to say it is mostly just jungle. The grass down the back is about 30cm long and hasn’t been mowed for about a year or so.